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Romney’s Hawkish Boilerplate

I have been laid low by a bad cold since the start of the new year, so I am a bit late to the discussion of Romney’s op-ed published earlier this week. Rod Dreher wasn’t impressed by the junior senator’s platitudes:

Honestly, who could possibly rally behind that mealy-mouthed message, or the man delivering it? I say this as a conservative who is sick and tired of Donald Trump’s big mouth, corruption, instability, and incompetence. But if it means going back to the Republican Party as it existed before Trump, no sale.

Romney is not a dissenter by nature, and it comes as no surprise that he doesn’t do it very well. The new senator from Utah is well-known for being a consummate opportunist and political chameleon. He has gone as far as he has in his political career by contorting and reinventing his public persona as much as possible every few years, and in Trump he has found a perfect foil for his latest iteration as responsible party elder.

As Romney op-eds go, the latest one wasn’t nearly as bad as most of the ones that were published in his name when he was a presidential candidate. The references to foreign policy were predictable, but they may have been the most important for making sense of Romney’s protest. Romney started off the op-ed by focusing his criticism on Trump’s conduct of foreign policy in the past month:

The Trump presidency made a deep descent in December. The departures of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, the appointment of senior persons of lesser experience, the abandonment of allies who fight beside us, and the president’s thoughtless claim that America has long been a “sucker” in world affairs all defined his presidency down.

There have been many other occasions when Trump has said more thoughtless and reckless things than anything he said last month, and there were many other times when the president trashed and insulted allies, and there were other abrupt departures of top officials, so it is significant that Romney sees the changes in December as marking a “deep descent.” Romney doesn’t mention Syria by name, and he doesn’t bother to identify the “allies” that are supposedly being abandoned, but it’s clear that he’s jumping on the bandwagon of critics opposed to any withdrawal from any war at any time. That is consistent with the horrible foreign policy worldview that Romney offered as a candidate in 2012, and it confirms that one of the few things that he consistently supports is aggressive and interventionist foreign policy.

It seems to me that Romney had the op-ed published this week before taking office because his real beef with the president is one centered on “American leadership” and foreign policy in general and our illegal war in Syria in particular. Some hawkish primacists are already dubbing Romney as the “heir” to McCain. That is amusing when one remembers how much the latter personally loathed the former governor, but as a description of their shared commitment to endless meddling abroad and waging unnecessary wars it makes a certain amount of sense.

The senator is returning to the inane foreign policy platform that he ran and lost on in 2012, and in doing so he has proven that he has learned absolutely nothing over the last six years.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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